LEAD Action News
LEAD Action News vol 9 no 1, August, 2008, Revised Version February, 2012, ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times ( ISSN 1440-4966) and Lead Advisory Service News ( ISSN 1440-0561)
The Journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.
Editor-in-Chief: Tony Lennon

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Monument To Birds

Birds are turning to lead in the port of Esperance in  Western Australia.

In a further twist to the history of lead contamination in the town, a study has found the lead levels in the local bird population to be the highest recorded anywhere in the world. The study which was released on the June 2008 was commissioned by the Conservation Council of Western Australia and residents in Esperance. Dr Dunlop who co-authored the report was reported in The West Australian newspaper as stating that ‘the alarming levels demonstrated that lead levels in the port town were remaining in the environment and proving difficult to remove’.

Image above of papier mache & acrylic sculpture 
Blackbird Singing’ (2008) courtesy of artist
Jane Lennon

One of the birds tested was found to have 750 mg per kilo in its feathers which Dr Dunlop described as ‘mineable grade’. The report found that the feathers of birds tested contained lead levels 10 to 100 times the background readings. The lead carbonate is sticking to the bird’s feathers and when they preen themselves they fatally consume the poisonous substance.

The export of lead carbonate, by Magellan Metals, through the port of Esperance was stopped in March 2007 and a Parliamentary Inquiry Report later found that 9,500 native birds had been fatally poisoned by the company’s lead concentrate.

The report shows that the 1993 establishment of a world’s best practice clean dust free port in Esperance is in tatters and that the clean up of the environment is going to be a costly and difficult job. See the West Australian newspaper article Lead levels in Esperance birds highest in world and the Esperance parliamentary inquiry follow-up fact sheet: Where to from Here?? written for The LEAD Group by Michelle Crisp who first reported the dead birds to the authorities. Because all the lead carbonate ore that passed through Esperance Port went on to Chinese ports (apparently with no warning or news of the bird deaths), Dr Hugh Xin Xi Zhu kindly translated Michelle’s factsheet into Chinese

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Last Updated 15 February 2012
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